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Surfing

Forget The Ocean, Why Not Try Surfing These Insane River Waves

Just watch out for the penis-biting fish!

Ripping in the centre of Munich, Germany, Photo: Travador.com
Ripping in the centre of Munich, Germany, Photo: Travador.com

Are you finding the ocean too crowded? Or do you just want to follow the full moon to catch a wave? Here are the ten best river waves in the world, from tidal bores in Alaska to fleeting standing waves in Hawaii.

 

Silver Dragon, Qiantang River, China

“I couldn’t believe waves can be this good, in a river. I was blown away.” That was Australian former top professional surfer Phil MacDonald talking to Mpora.com about the tidal river bore in China’s Qiantang River.

MacDonald was there to compete in the 2014 Red Bull Qiantang Surfing Shoot Out, which features surfers like Jamie O’Brien, Dean “Dingo” Morrison, Jamie Stirling and Mikala Jones.

This year the waves reached heights of 10 feet, with one of the world’s biggest tidal bores providing dramatic action for the thousands of spectators who line the river to watch the natural phenomenon.

Known locally as the Silver Dragon, the tide rushing into the river mouth from the nearby bay causes a bore which can travel at speeds of up to 25 miles an hour.

“The speed and the water movement is incredible,” said Morrison. “You are moving so fast and you can do all the turns like normal surfing, except the wave goes for about a kilometre.”

 

The Severn Bore, UK

The second largest tidal bore in the world might not have the best shaped waves, but it has the longest and most colourful surf history.

The large surge wave occurs in estuary of the River Severn in Gloucestershire, aided by a tidal range as high as 50 feet which occurs a few days after the new and full moons.

The shape of the Severn estuary is such that the water is funneled into an increasingly narrow channel as the tide rises, thus forming the wave which at its fastest travels around 15 miles per hour.

Colonel “Mad Jack” Churchill, an ex-wartime Commando leader, was the first man to surf the bore back 1955 while Steve Ling is the current Guinness World Record holder for the longest ride, a leg-jellying distance of 9.25 miles.

 

The Pororocoa, Brazil

A tidal bore formed where the Amazon River meets the Atlantic Ocean, the Pororoca (translated as ‘great roar’ in the local Tupi language) can travel 500 miles inland creating waves as high as 12 feet.

The wave has been surfed since the late 1990s, with an annual championship held on the Guama River tributary first starting in 1999.

In 2003 the Brazilian Picuruta Salazar won the event with a record ride of 8.2 miles that lasted 37 minutes. That year the Pororoca was brought to world wide attention when famous big wave surfers Ross Clarke-Jones and Carlos Burle surfed the bore and made a documentary film of their adventure called, rather obviously, Pororoca: Surfing the Amazon.

While the speed and size of the bore has its challenges, it is the debris, including whole trees, fauna and Amazon penis-biting fish that perhaps provide the biggest fear factor. “Fear comes through lack of knowledge,” said Clarke-Jones in the film, “and I was as scared as I have been in a long time before I surfed that wave.”

 

The Bono, Sumatra, Indonesia

Not named after U2’s lead singer but for the Indonesian word for tidal wave, the Bono breaks in the Kampar River in Sumatra.

The wave made international news when a Rip Curl team led by three time world champion Tom Curren surfed the wave in epic conditions for their Seven Ghosts movie in 2011.

High quality footage including seven perfect wave sets and big brown barrels went viral. The Bono now has numerous camps and tour operators set up to surf the waves.

No wonder as the average ride on the Bono wave lasts about 15 minutes with wave sizes between two and four feet, often with fun peeling rippable walls, although certain sections can produce wave faces of more than 10 feet.

The Bono also offers water temperatures of a bath like 27°C and the record for a ride on a single wave is more than one hour.

 

Eisbach, Munich, Germany

While a wave that translates as “Ice Brook” in English doesn’t seem too appealing, Munich’s Eisbach has become the hub for urban surfing in Europe.

It is a standing wave, created when a high volume of water is constricted by flowing over rock, that has now been surfed for over 40 years and has a real surf culture attached to the area.

The Eisbach is a small man-made river, on a side arm of the Isar River and the wave is just past a bridge near the Haus der Kunst art museum. Local surfers have also attached ropes to the bridge which trail submerged planks that also improve the quality of the wave.

While the Ice Brook is cold, most weekends will see locals (and visiting tourists) queue by the river to have a crack surfing the three foot left and rights.

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